In honor of the holiday, there will be no regular post today.
However, I have done a massive update of my Resources for Fiction Writers page. I’ve added over 25 new resources for fiction writers on topics including writing speed and productivity, self-publishing services, writing tools, narrative and narrative voice, and many more! Head over there and check it out!
In the meantime, I wish you well whether you are writing this weekend or taking time off to spend with family.
You wouldn’t dream of putting your book on sale without getting feedback from readers or editors. Your book title is arguably just as important. Get feedback on it before you put it out into the world.
Get advice from people who are familiar with your genre. They can tell you whether the title fits and what kind of mood the title conveys.
2. Search Google and Amazon.
You’ll be competing with lots of other book titles, so it’s important that you pick one that is unique enough to stand out, one that doesn’t get lost among other similarly titled books.
This is especially important for the first few books in a series or when you’re just getting established.
Sure, by book 12 of his popular series, The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher could get away with the generic, one-word title Changes. Actually, it is a rather clever and appropriate title for those who know the series well. However, by that point, Butcher had people waiting with bated breath for the next Dresden book to come out, and he didn’t have to worry about whether his title would get lost in the shuffle of the more than a quarter million books published in the United States each year.
For the rest of us, Google and Amazon can help us discover whether the book title that we have come up with has already been used or whether there are a bunch of other books with titles so similar that search engines won’t know the difference.
Be sure to search for your title with and without quotation marks. Using quotes around your term directs the search engine to look for the exact order and combination of words that you have typed. For example, searching lovers and demons on Amazon books gets you quite different results than searching for “lovers and demons.”
Use what you find to get an idea of what book titles are already out there, and tweak your own as needed.
3. Keep It Simple and Specific.
If you look at the current lists of Amazon and New York Times bestsellers, almost all of the titles (not including subtitles) is one to four words long. There are exceptions where longer titles work, but people are often looking for titles that are unique but simple enough to remember.
4. Use Keywords.
For titles that might trend toward the generic side or if you are a new author, the use of keywords, especially in your subtitle, can help your book attract readers. For example, adding the subtitle “A Vampire Romance” will let paranormal romance fans know immediately that this is the kind of book they’re looking for.
5. Avoid Book Titles that Have Nothing to Do with Your Actual Story.
Be careful that your title doesn’t convey a meaning that you don’t intend. Together, your title, cover, and back cover blurb should give your readers a clear picture of what your book is about. If any of these is misleading, it can lead to bad reviews and turn away future readers.
6. Be Cautious of One-Word Book Titles.
A one-word title might work for you if that particular word is uncommon or even made up. The use of a character’s name can also be an effective method for creating a one-word title. Think Beowulf, Dracula, and Rebecca. These names really work as book titles, and the first two especially have no risk of being confused with anything else.
However, if you use too common a word for your title, it may be pushed down to the bottom of the search results and/or be duplicated by other books that are already out there.
Once your book is known and people start searching for it, they need to be able to find it. For example, if your book is titled Seduction, readers might have trouble. A search for the word seduction brings up a lot of book titles on Amazon, especially in the romance genre. The title of your book will be competing with not just single-word titles but all the titles containing that word.
Adding just a couple of memorable words to your title can make it easier for readers to find. In our previous example, changing Seduction to Seduction at Clear Point makes the title much more searchable.
7. Avoid Offensive Titles or Ones with Unintended Negative Connotations.
Be careful that you don’t offend potential readers with the title of your book. Save your controversial content for the inside. It’s generally a good idea to avoid offensive titles unless they serve to attract the audience you’re looking for.
8. Don’t Spoil Your Book with Its Title.
On the same note, be cautious that your book title doesn’t give away your ending. Otherwise, why would people want to buy it? How many people would want to read the play Hamlet if it were titled Everyone Dies in the End? (Well, maybe more than we’d think, but those folks may not have been the audience Shakespeare was looking for.)
What are your tips for creating intriguing, sellable book titles?
I found Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter by Monica Leonelle to be a useful resource, although it really is just for the beginner in dictation or for those writers who are just considering dictation but haven’t yet tried it.
By the time I got around to reading Dictate Your Book, I had already learned most of the information from other sources (web pages, blogs, and podcasts) and had started dictating on my own months before.
That said, there are a lot of useful tips in the book, most of which come down to instructions on how not to waste time training your software until you decide that you really want to use it full time.
The one thing I wish Leonelle had covered was the use of a combination of voice and the mouse and keyboard for certain tasks. For example, you can edit with Dragon. Sure, doing it by voice would be completely thankless, but if you add in your mouse and keyboard for cursor placement and other tasks, you can edit at about the same speed as you would by keyboard. I have done as much myself.
I’m glad there are books out there like this, though, that give writers like me options for increasing their writing speed without spending more time at the keyboard.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small percentage of sales through these links but at no extra cost to you. My editing, design and consulting services are paid for by clients, but affiliate links help me to provide free blog content, videos, and writing and self-publishing resources for all of my readers.
As an author, you want your book title to be unique and memorable. You also need it to be discoverable in searches and intriguing enough that readers go on to read the back cover blurb or book description.
Your book title is right up there with your cover design and back cover blurb in convincing people to buy and read your book.
Keep in mind that most of these tips apply to series or short story titles as well.
1. Use the Name or Title of One of Your Main Characters
Depending on your story, you might choose the protagonist or the antagonist. Use it by itself (think Hannibal) or with a combination of other words (as in The Dresden Files or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).
You can also use a character’s title. For example, Hamlet could have been called The Prince of Denmark.
2. Use Your Theme
Theme can make a strong book title. Peter Brown uses his title The Wild Robot to describe both the main character’s journey and one of the book’s themes. Bella Forest uses The Gender Game to emphasize the strong theme of gender division in her book.
3. Use a Significant Event or Plot Point
If your book centers around a major event, why not use that event as your title?
Suzanne Collins uses The Hunger Games as both the title of her first book and the series title.
If you employ a MacGuffin, a device which triggers the plot, you can use it to create your book title as Dashiell Hammett did with The Maltese Falcon.
4. Use Your Setting as Your Book Title
A unique or catchy setting name can also create an intriguing book title. Robin Carr uses the name of her fictional small town Virgin River as the title for both a book and the series it belongs to.
This method is especially appropriate when your setting figures strongly in your work. You can also use a general setting and combine it with other words or themes to create a discoverable title as Holly Black did with The Darkest Part of the Forest.
5. Use a Character’s Unique Perspective
If your character has a strong viewpoint, you can use this to your advantage. An example from nonfiction is Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. You hardly even have to read the blurb to get a feel for this book and the author’s outlook on life.
6. Use a Favorite Line of Text or Dialogue
Judy Blume uses her main character’s oft-used line as her title in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. As you read through your book during revisions, write down favorite or iconic lines and see if one might work for you.
7. Steal Your Book Title
If appropriate, use a line from something famous or make a play off someone else’s title. Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea is an obvious play off Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
So many people have “stolen” titles from lines of Shakespeare’s work that there is a whole Wikipedia page devoted to them.
In a future post, I’ll cover some dos and don’ts on getting your book title right. In the meantime, how did you come up with your book title(s)? I’d love to hear your stories.